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History dissertation examples

There are many ways of writing history and no fixed formula for a 'good' essay or dissertation. However, regardless of approach, there are some guidelines for presentation.

Some people may have a clear idea already of what they are going to write about. Others may find it more difficult to choose or focus on a topic. First of all, it is important that you choose an area in which you are interested – writing an essay on something you hate or are bored with is not a helpful start. Next, explore the subject a bit. Ask your supervisor for a list of appropriate readings. You will also find that you can pick up further helpful readings from the footnotes of the works that have been suggested to you, or you can go back to your supervisor for more help. From your readings you may get intrigued by some event or somebody's work. Or you may find that historians present conflicting interpretatons of the same event. In the latter case, you may decide to assess the validity of such views or come up with a better interpretation of your own. In the former case, you will probably have to find out more about particular people or incidents, and also ask yourself what aspect of the person/event/thing it is that interests you, and try to narrow down your focus. Try to define your topic as specifically as possible as soon as possible. Many dissertations and essays turn out to be overambitious in scope, but underambition is a rare defect!

Before you start you may want to have a look at some sample dissertations and essays from the past: ask the Librarian at the Whipple.

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Both essays and dissertations have an introduction and a conclusion. Between the introduction and the conclusion there is an argument or narrative (or mixture of argument and narrative).

An introduction introduces your topic, giving reasons why it is interesting and anticipating (in order) the steps of your argument. Hence many find that it is a good idea to write the introduction last. A conclusion summarises your arguments and claims. This is also the place to draw out the implications of your claims; and remember that it is often appropriate to indicate in your conclusion further profitable lines of research, inquiry, speculation, etc.

An argument or narrative should be coherent and presented in order. It should also be easy to follow. Always give reasons for your assertions and assessments: simply stating that something or somebody is right or wrong does not constitute an argument.

Source: www.hps.cam.ac.uk
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